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Controlling grasshoppers

These munch monsters can make a quick meal of your flowers and vegetables

Grasshoppers are one of the most difficult insects to control. They hop, they fly, and your garden plants are a buffet.

Jonathan Larson is an extension entomologist at the University of Nebraska. He says in the spring, baby grasshoppers don’t have their strong jaws yet so they only feed between the veins of a leaf. As they grow through the summer, their mouths become so powerful they can take a plant down to the ground.

Larson says when you’re trying to control grasshoppers, vigilance early in the season is the key.

"If you get out there early with something like carbaryl or cyfluthrin, and spray that on the plant, those young grasshoppers, they’ll feed on the leaves that have been treated, and they’ll die," says Larson. "If you wait until you see big grasshoppers hopping around, your chances of control are considerably lowered."

Larson says another option to consider is a trap cropping square around the perimeter of the plants you want to protect.

"If you want to keep your garden safe from grasshoppers, plant some lush, tall grasses around the garden. The grasshoppers will migrate into those grasses, preferentially over your garden, and if you start to see them in there, you can go through and target with a spray or a bait in that area," he says. "You’ll get really good control, and you’ll see less damage on your plants."

Weather is a huge factor in grasshopper populations. Larson says a dry winter dries out grasshopper eggs and exposes them to the elements. A cool, wet spring promotes the development of fungi that destroys the immature insects. However, a hot, dry summer is their best friend. Heat helps insects develop quicker, and stresses out plants which makes them easier for grasshoppers to munch on.

Find more tips for stopping grasshoppers

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